Media Practice Research Symposium – 3 November 2015 – Goldsmiths Media & Communications

upcoming Media Practice Research Symposium forms part of the long-term ambition to support innovative and creative practice research in Goldsmiths’ Department of Media and Communications and you are welcome to participate in this free half-day event.

Our Media Practice Research Symposium has leading researchers  and colleagues sharing experiences of practice research across a wide range of creative and professional media practice.

Our Guest Speakers: Dr. Kion Ahadi (Creative Skillset), Joanna Callaghan (University of Sussex), Prof. David Hendy (University of Sussex), Prof. Diane Kemp (Birmingham City University), and John Wyver (University of Westminster).

Abstracts & Speaker Biographies – Media Practice Research Symposium

Date: Tuesday 3rd November 2015
Start/End Times: 1.00pm – 5.00pm (followed by drinks)
Venue: Room 314, Professor Stuart Hall Building (links to map), Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths

Everyone is welcome though space is limited;  register your attendance click on this link to Eventbrite (links to Eventbrite).

Enquiries to Richard MacDonald, Department of Media & Communications, (links to email)

Rising to the challenge

I am delighted to be able to work with Goldsmiths to kick-start this hugely important conversation on the future of practice research in the UK. Practice makes a hugely vibrant and important contribution to our research base. Through its broad and impressive strengths, it contributes not only to the vitality of scholarship across all disciplines, but also to the wider publics, communities, societies and economies that engage with and benefit from the work of our universities.

We are, however, living in a time where practice research is being subjected to very real pressures. I want to outline three such pressures in this blog post, and offer some suggestions – or perhaps provocations – for how practice research can rise to the challenge of meeting these pressures head on and using them to shape a vital new vision for practice research in the UK.

The first challenge is the biggest: the pressure to demonstrate value for money. Research in all disciplines is operating in a context where continued success depends on competing for scarce resources. Governments, funders, universities and researchers would all agree that public investment in research should always aim to strike a balance between two needs – the need for intellectual pursuits to take place freely and openly, and the need for public funding to be spent wisely. While I don’t believe the balance has shifted greatly in recent years, I do think the tone of the public conversation has shifted towards viewing the wisest investments as those which generate a financial return.

I believe it is entirely within the gift of research communities, their representatives, their universities, funders and others to make a significant contribution to changing the tone of the conversation. Why is it okay for public money to be spent on undertaking research in new, untested, creative directions that may have no immediate positive impact on the public purse? Why is research in creative disciplines worth paying for? As a great believer in practice-based research, I have developed my own answers to these questions. But as your provocateur, I’d say that the practice research community needs to take all available opportunities to make the arguments for continued investment, and that a key part of this is that practice research must define for itself what excellent, valuable, impactful scholarship looks like.

The second challenge is one that might feel more real to many researchers: the pressure to align practice-based research with institutional strategies. This, too, is about money, but it is also about much more – it is about the structures, cultures, strategies and managerial approaches within universities. How should university structures and cultures adapt, and make space, to allow practice research to flourish on its own terms? How can practice researchers engage more with wider institutional imperatives and demands? As your provocateur, I’d say that university managers and practice researchers need to talk seriously about what needs to change to enable practice research to thrive. This blogsite, and the associated discussion list, can provide forums for these conversations to begin to take real shape – let’s use them.

The third challenge is perhaps the one that perhaps feels closest to the heart of practice research: the pressure to identify and engage with a wider research ‘standard’ or ‘definition’ that comes from practising in a university context. Perhaps some researchers feel that the common accepted notions of ‘research’ should not, or do not, apply to them. Perhaps the language and terminology that research managers, funders and governments use in discussions and documents is unfamiliar, inapplicable, or simply unrecognisable. Perhaps the processes of documenting, communicating and translating new knowledge and insight are simply less important in practice research. Or perhaps engaging with these wider academic standards and demands is damaging to practice itself, and if ‘being a better researcher’ means ‘being a worse practitioner’, then it’s just not worth it.

As your provocateur, I’d say that the practice research community urgently needs to sort these issues out. Practice is undoubtedly worthwhile in its own right, creating value and impact through aesthetic appreciation or practical application in myriad ways. But I think it’s wholly justified to expect all practice researchers to make a lasting contribution to the body of insight into, and knowledge about, the structures, meanings and values of practice, and to communicate that contribution effectively. How best to do this? Well, it might take time to reach a settled answer, but your universities and funders are listening. Let’s get cracking!

Ben Johnson is a research policy adviser at the Higher Education Funding Council for England. 

The Future of Practice Research: welcome back to the debate

 ‘The Future of Practice Research’ symposium at Goldsmiths, hosted in partnership with HEFCE on 4 June 2015, gave an opportunity for researchers, practitioners and research managers to explore new ways in which practice research is extending, and to influence broad agendas around assessment, funding and impact in a period of constant change.

To those who made it to the symposium, many thanks for all your contributions!  To those who didn’t, it was a full and fruitful day, and we decided to keep the conversation going with this blogsite. Building on all the vibrant work in our Practice Research community, we’re hoping this will lead to many new initiatives as well as provide a platform for debate and advocacy.

So do have a look at the materials attached inserted within a reminder of the programme for the day – currently you’ll find all the notes from the afternoon breakout sessions.  Our podcasts and slides will be added shortly.

Further ideas, reactions, provocations?  Let’s continue the conversation!


The Symposium

10:00 Welcome & IntroductionsPodcast to come

Pat Loughrey (Warden, Goldsmiths)
Ben Johnson (Research Policy Adviser, HEFCE)
Mark d’Inverno (Computing, Pro-Warden for Research and Enterprise, Goldsmiths)


10:15 Different Perspectives IPodcasts and slides to come

Talk 1. Anne Tallentire (Art, Central St Martins, University of the Arts London)

Talk 2. Steven Hill (Head of Research Policy, HEFCE) – Slides: Steven-Hill

Talk 3. Bruce Brown (Design, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, University of Brighton)


11:15 Different Perspectives IIPodcasts and slides to come

Talk 4. Lauren Redhead (Music, Canterbury Christ Church University)

Talk 5. Stella Hall (Festival director and consultant)

Talk 6. Sally Mackey (Applied Theatre, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama) – Slides – Sally Mackey

Talk 7. Janet Hodgson (Centre for Fine Art Research, Birmingham City University) and Helen Wickstead (Art/Archaeology, Kingston University)


12.15   Q&A Panel chaired by Andrea Phillips (Art, Goldsmiths) – Podcast to come

13:45   Breakout Session I: Present and Future

Where is Practice Research now and how might it develop in innovative ways over the next decade?

How can we best demonstrate excellence in Practice Research?

How should we peer review Practice Research?

How might we develop common languages and approaches across disciplines?

Breakout Session I: Present and Future – All groups

15:00    Breakout Session II: The Environment

How does Practice Research relate to the professional world, and how might we enhance such relationships?

How can we best support and nurture Practice Research within higher education?

What are the strongest ways to demonstrate the public impact of Practice Research?

How might we reassert the importance of Practice Research, both within the academy and to a wider world?

Breakout Session II: The Environment – All groups